No job prospects, no problem. Young PR pros launch Empath Worldwide

The pro bono firm has nearly 40 team members and more than a dozen clients.

L to R: Geneve Lau and Maya Malekian
L to R: Geneve Lau and Maya Malekian

NEW YORK: In a summer of rescinded job offers and canceled study abroad programs, a group of young PR professionals are taking matters into their own hands by creating a pro bono communications firm called Empath Worldwide.

Leading the firm are executive directors Maya Malekian, a recent Boston University graduate, and BU student Geneve Lau. Both were members of the PR Council’s Agency Ready Certificate Program, which was created to help college students and graduates entering the industry. 

Empath Worldwide launched at the start of this month with 14 clients from the technology, education and nonprofit sectors. The agency has 38 team members from around the world, with 13 directors and 25 creatives.

Malekian came up with the idea for the firm as a way to take her experience from the PR Council’s program and create something for people in a similar position, who are struggling to enter the industry due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Malekian explained that during the first webinar for the PR Council’s program, BCW president Jim Joseph shared how empathy is intrinsically tied to authentic communications. 

“The Zoom chat box went off with hundreds of young professionals around the world affirming and following up with insightful commentary on the topic,” she recalled. “It was an inspiring moment and deeply resonated with me as I witnessed our world torn apart by the lack of empathy and brought together by its powerful healing qualities.”

It clicked for her that the young professionals in the program were hungry and eager to put the lessons learned to work.

“That's when I reached out to [Lau] with the idea to start a collective that allowed creatives and mission-driven organizations to turn their aspirations to action, even at a time when the odds felt stacked against both communities of dreamers and changemakers,” Malekian said.

Lau said that Malekian reached out to her in the middle of June with the idea of Empath. 

“Entrepreneurship and innovation have always been at the core of what I want to do, but I never had a real way to put that in implementation and Empath has been the chance for me to combine those two things in my field of study,” Lau said.

“[Malekian] wanted to find ways we could come together and use our PR and comms skills and contribute to the greater good because so much is happening in the world with COVID-19 and global unrest,” said Archelle Thelemaque, director of media relations for Empath Worldwide.

The agency’s services include visual branding, media relations, social media, event planning and crisis communications. It is also providing networking opportunities for clients who want to connect with other businesses that have similar goals.  

Thelemaque was also a member of the PR Council’s Agency Ready Certificate Program, which provided participants with top agency executive-led webinars on strategic planning, data, social media strategy and crisis communications. Members also received instruction on tech platforms and guidance on remote interviewing, resume writing, time management and managing stress and anxiety. 

“The PR Council’s program was an invaluable experience, and learning first-hand from industry leaders was a good opportunity for me to figure out where I want to be in the PR agency world,” she said. “There are so many different ways you can tell a story, and that is what the PR Council taught me.”

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